The Class 6A playoffs begin Friday night. Staff writer Jim Paulsen (18-14) is sitting two games behind preps sports cohort David La Vaque (20-12), looking to gain ground now that the second season has hit the state’s biggest schools.

ARMSTRONG (5-3) AT BLAINE (5-3), 7 p.m.

Jim says: Just as Blaine did in its run to the 6A semifinals last year, the Bengals have shaken off a midseason swoon and finished strong. The efficiency of QB Connor Melton is vital. He’s completed 68.3 percent of his passes in the victories, 55.3 percent in the losses.

Pick: Blaine 42, Armstrong 24

David says: Not all 5-3 records are created equal. Armstrong’s regular-season schedule, made up of predominantly Class 5A teams, might have helped in terms of confidence and health. But iron sharpens iron. Blaine’s body of work will have the Bengals better prepared.

Pick: Blaine 28, Armstrong 14

WOODBURY (4-4) at

LAKEVILLE SOUTH (3-5), 7 p.m.

Jim says: Woodbury is riding a four-game winning streak, although two of those came over winless teams. The Royals haven’t given up double digits in points in more than month, which bodes well against a Lakeville South team that has struggled to score.

Pick: Woodbury 17, Lakeville South 13

David says: Nothing Lakeville South does offensively catches the eye. But the Cougars have gone 2-1 in games in which neither team scored 20 points. So a grind-it-out game favors the Cougars, who on the right night can earn a victory.

Pick: Lakeville South 14, Woodbury 10


CENTENNIAL (7-1), 7 p.m.

Jim says: Stillwater’s troubles run deep, whether it be offensive miscues or a defense that leaks. Centennial isn’t flashy, but the Cougars run the ball to the tune of 268 yards per game. That ground game should result in a tidy victory.

Pick: Centennial 28, Stillwater 14

David says: Centennial quarterback Ryan Koob (750 yards rushing) and running back Sam Bonfe (720) give the Cougars game-breaking options out of the backfield. Stillwater hasn’t scored more than a touchdown in its past three games — all losses.

Pick: Centennial 35, Stillwater 7